Catholic & Jewish: A Spicy Combo

Amy Keyishian

Santa with menorah
Ooh, Santa baby...
I recently got a funny query on my Facebook page from my husband's grownup guitar-player son. "I'm playing an Italian wedding," he said. "They want something super-Italian, but they don't know what. Besides That's Amore, what should I play? I figured you'd know because of your ex."

Ah, my Roman Catholic ex. The question was, which one? When I posted back with other suggestions (Volare, Mambo Italiano, Buona Sera, Besame Mucho), I noted that said ex would probably be along to either approve or mock my choices. And he was – only it was a different Roman Catholic ex, with nothing but opinions, just like always. Then another one weighed in, and pretty soon we were all arguing while my stepson looked on, his virtual eyes getting wider by the minute.

Finally, he added his own comment: "What did you do when you lived in New York, attend singles nights at the Knights of Columbus?"

"I didn't have to," I posted back. "Wear a Star of David on the streets of Little Italy and they stick to you like flies on fly-paper."

There are certain combinations that result in flying sparks, for better (sheet-twisting passion!) or worse (neighbor-disturbing arguments!). Sagittarians and Cancers. Star Trek geeks and Star Wars nerds. Phillies fans and, well, anyone else. To me, Catholics and Jews are a spicy combination, one that can work as well as pretzels and chocolate if balanced correctly.

Both are ancient, passionate religions full of mystic stories, visionaries, and yelling over huge meals. Not to mention overbearing moms. Plus there's the thrill of forbidden fruit. Hey, I spent several years going to Sunday Mass with one of those exes, ferrying his kids to Sunday school, where their teachers were careful to tell them the Last Supper was a Seder (so sweet!). I know both services back and forth at this point, and let me tell you, they are not all that different.

Of course, both times I actually married, I married Jewish. When push came to shove, I didn't really want a Christmas tree with dreidel ornaments (and I find myself awash with passion even without the cultural rift, so I guess I outgrew my youthful fetish).

I'm just saying: if you're thinking of writing somebody off because his background is too different from yours, don't. You could be missing out on an interesting combo that, with a little work, could work like lifetime-lovers Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft (born Maria Luisa Italiano, from the Bronx). Then again, you could produce a cranky little Sean Penn. It's a crapshoot.

Have you been part of an unusual cultural combo? What's your favorite romantic mashup?

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